Friday, August 10, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The latest from Zimbabwe:
On Friday, President Mugabe signed into law an act permitting state security agencies full access to "private" telephone conversations, mail, and Internet use. The official line says the law is designed to protect national security and eliminate crime.
Since the economy is in free-fall, mass famine is imminent, and chaos seem unavoidable, I sorta doubt the security services are interested in preventing old people from falling prey to the Nigerian bank spam scam.
In an unrelated matter, the government is now going after the few white farmers who have refused to hand over their farms to be "redistributed". Apparently, about 600 white farmers have kept their land since the Mugabe government ordered them to leave back in 2000.
Given the dreadful output of "redistributed" farmland, these 600 commercial farms are probably the reason the famine hasn't started already.
Regardless, official sources say the farmers were notified 3 months ago to wind down operations and get the f*** out. Those who have not done so by now face arrest.
While not all of his predictions have come true, he was spot on regarding the American public's stomach for a long fight, or, rather, its lack thereof.
I think Iraq was the wrong place to test America's will to fight. But the fact remains, nearly six years down the road and with no terrorist activity in the US since, Americans have forgotten the clarity we all had on Sept 12, 2001.
So, with this in mind, here is Kern's letter in full:
Recently, I was asked to look at the recent events through the lens of military history. I have joined the cast of thousands who have written an "open letter to Americans."
14 September, 2001
Dear friends and fellow Americans
Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last week's attack on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling from surprise. As a career soldier and a student and teacher of military history, I have a different perspective and I think you should hear it.
This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats, politicians or soldiers. Let me briefly explain. In spite of what the media, and even our own government is telling us, this act was not committed by a group of mentally deranged fanatics. To dismiss them as such would be among the gravest of mistakes. This attack was committed by a ferocious, intelligent and dedicated adversary. Don't take this the wrong way. I don't admire these men and I deplore their tactics, but I respect their capabilities. The many parallels that have been made with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak attack against a complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling our new adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over, just like my father's generation had to do with the formidable Japanese in the years following WW II.
These men hate the United States with all of their being, and we must not underestimate the power of their moral commitment. Napoleon, perhaps the world's greatest combination of soldier and statesman, stated the moral is to the physical as three is to one. Patton thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said moral conviction was five times more important in battle than physical strength. Our enemies are willing — better said anxious — to give their lives for their cause. How committed are we America? And for how long?
In addition to demonstrating great moral conviction, the recent attack demonstrated a mastery of some of the basic fundamentals of warfare taught to most military officers worldwide, namely simplicity, security and surprise. When I first heard rumors that some of these men may have been trained at our own Air War College, it made perfect sense to me. This was not a random act of violence, and we can expect the same sort of military competence to be displayed in the battle to come. This war will escalate, with a good portion of it happening right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. These men will not go easily into the night. They do not fear us. We must not fear them.
In spite of our overwhelming conventional strength as the world's only superpower (a truly silly term), we are the underdog in this fight. As you listen to the carefully scripted rhetoric designed to prepare us for the march for war, please realize that America is not equipped or seriously trained for the battle ahead. To be certain, our soldiers are much better than the enemy, and we have some excellent counter-terrorist organizations, but they are mostly trained for hostage rescues, airfield seizures, or the occasional body snatch, (which may come in handy). We will be fighting a war of annihilation, because if their early efforts are any indication, our enemy is ready and willing to die to the last man. Eradicating the enemy will be costly and time consuming. They have already deployed their forces in as many as 20 countries, and are likely living the lives of everyday citizens.
Simply put, our soldiers will be tasked with a search and destroy mission on multiple foreign landscapes, and the public must be patient and supportive until the strategy and tactics can be worked out. For the most part, our military is still in the process of redefining itself and is presided over by men and women who grew up with - and were promoted because they excelled in - Cold War doctrine, strategy and tactics. This will not be linear warfare, there will be no clear centers of gravity to strike with high technology weapons. Our vast technological edge will certainly be helpful, but it will not be decisive. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the coming battle was introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked aircraft — this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs. We must also be patient with our military leaders.
Unlike Americans who are eager to put this messy time behind us, our adversaries have time on their side, and they will use it. They plan to fight a battle of attrition, hoping to drag the battle out until the American public loses its will to fight. This might be difficult to believe in this euphoric time of flag waving and patriotism, but it is generally acknowledged that America lacks the stomach for a long fight. We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap (also a military history teacher) defeated the United States of America without ever winning a major tactical battle. American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag waving Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three years later when they returned.
Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is no Giap, he is certain to understand and employ the concept. We can expect not only large doses of pain like the recent attacks, but also less audacious sand in the gears tactics, ranging from livestock infestations to attacks at water supplies and power distribution facilities. These attacks are designed to hit us in our comfort zone forcing the average American to pay more and play less and eventually eroding our resolve. But it can only work if we let it. It is clear to me that the will of the American citizenry - you and I - is the center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum upon which victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft, impatient, and self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must change. The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often quoted and least read military theorist in history), says that there is a remarkable trinity of war that is composed of the (1) will of the people, (2) the political leadership of the government, and (3) the chance and probability that plays out on the field of battle, in that order.
Every American citizen was in the crosshairs of last Tuesday's attack, not just those that were unfortunate enough to be in the World Trade Center or Pentagon. The will of the American people will decide this war. If we are to win, it will be because we have what it takes to persevere through a few more hits, learn from our mistakes, improvise, and adapt. If we can do that, we will eventually prevail.
Everyone I've talked to in the past few days has shared a common frustration, saying in one form or another, "I just wish I could do something!" You are already doing it. Just keep faith in America, and continue to support your President and military, and the outcome is certain. If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain. God Bless America
Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military History, USAF Academy
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I'd like to see Big Tom's work online again. I hope this is true.
Had a chance to peruse the Beeb at lunch today, for the first time in WEEKS. A few items caught my eye:
- Greek and Kuwaiti archaeologists are excavating on the Persian Gulf island of Failaka. They are hoping to find artifacts from Alexander the Great's army, which had an outpost on the island in the 4th Century BC. I am fascinated by archaeology since long before Raiders of the Lost Ark and, as a kid, I had a fondness for all thing ancient Greek. This is one I'll be watching.
- First gasoline, now milk. The Chinese, long noted as culturally lactose-intolerant, have developed a fondness for milk. Thus, the price of your Papa John's order may be going up.
- Brit pop chanteuse Lilly Allen has had her US work visa revoked, putting a major crimp into plans for her US tour scheduled for September. Apparently, the row stems from Allen's arrest for an alleged assault in London back in June. Allen, in the US for the MTV Video Music Awards launch, was detained at LAX, questioned, and strip-searched. Seems a bit over the top by US officials, but, hey, it was a chance to see Lilly Allen naked, which probably does something for some. There have to be some perks to the boring job of Immigration officer, right?
Israeli police and troops smashed reinforced doors and dragged screaming, cursing, and object-throwing Jewish squatters out of an illegal settlement in Hebron early on Tuesday.
Is Mishteret Yisrael (the Israeli Police Force) the worst job in the world? If it's not Hamas or Hezbollah trying to blow you up or shoot you and your family, it's the Chabad-Lubavitchers throwing rocks and trash at you while you drag their cursing wives out of a shack in Bandit Country.
Oh, and by the way, there's still, you know, crimes to be solved. Burglaries, theft, drugs, etc. On top of all that other rubbish.
I hope those dudes are well paid.
We tend to focus on Islamic extremists, since they're the ones doing most of the damage in Israel (and elsewhere, but that's another post or two). However, Jewish extremists are certainly contributing their fair share to the chaos. These are the people who believe there can be no compromise with the Palestinians, that the West Bank is, in fact, The True Promised Land, and that anyone who even thinks about handing places like Hebron over to the PA is out to destroy Israel.
There is no reasoning with people like this. Just as there is no reasoning with fans of Farfour, rational thought and the art of compromise are completely foreign concepts to these fundamentalists. They would sacrifice the rest of Israel, peace for their children, and the opnion of the world for their ideals.
It is sort of amusing that, if I fundamentally agreed with their points, I'd be lauding them for their efforts. And, there's quite a bit to be said for sticking to your guns and not taking the easy way out.
But, then we get back to the concept of defensible borders, a reduction in violence and confrontation, and, maybe, a chance at negotiation, finding common ground, cooperation, children able to go to school on their bicycles rather than in armored busses, and, perhaps, peace.
In a sign of just how far Northern Ireland has come, and one of hope for just about every area of conflict around the world, the British Army has completed it's Northern Ireland stand-down. The last installations to close were in the legendary "Bandit Country" of South Armagh.
Interestingly, and equally hopeful, tourism is now the big business in South Armagh. And not "Troubles" tourism, but legit cultural tourism. I did not know how important County Armagh is in the history of Christianity in Ireland.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I have never been a huge late night TV fan, and have not spent much time with TV talk shows in general, so I didn't know much about Snyder's interest in and support for music acts of all sorts. Nor was I familiar with his particular soft spot for New Wave and punk in the early 80s. People and bands who did not do TV talk shows did Snyder's Tomorrow or Late Late Show regularly. Johnny Rotten (not an interview so much as a verbal fist fight), Wendy O. Williams, KISS, Iggy Pop, The Clash, etc etc all made appearances with Snyder.
One of the all-time great interviews, although it is SHORT, was Snyder's chat with early-80s Bono and The Edge. You could see the greatness even then.
The South Africans are, for whatever reason, not patrolling the border too enthusiastically.
The astute reader will immediately equate this to a situation a little closer to home.
BTW, the UN is asking relief agencies to start stocking supplies for the inevitable famine about to hit Zimbabwe. God Himself has, apparently, become involved in the situation, as the Zimbabwe harvest is predicted to fail badly this year.
The first does a total make over. She goes to a fancy beauty salon gets her hair done, new make up and buys several new outfits and dresses up very nicely for the man. She tells him that she has done this to be more a attractive for him because she loves him so much.
The man was impressed.
The second goes shopping to buy the man gifts. She gets him a new set of golf clubs, some new gizmos for his computer, and some expensive clothes. As she presents these gifts, she tells him that she has spent all the money on him because she loves him so much.
Again, the man is impressed.
The third invests the money in t he stock market. She earns several times the $5,000. She gives him back his $5,000 and reinvests the remainder in a joint account. She tells him that she wants to save for their future because she loves him so much.
Obviously, the man was impressed.
The man thought for a long time about what each woman had done with the money he'd given her.
Then, he married the one with the biggest boobs.